Being "nice" is a central part of the Brooks yuppie's guilt-proofing self-image rationale; so long as you're the kind of guy who lets people merge on highways, stands politely in line at Starbucks, doesn't put garish Christmas decorations on his lawn and pays his taxes, you're not really doing anything wrong. It gets a little tiring after a while, hearing people who vote for wars tell you how nice they are.
But the most objectionable thing about the Brooks column was its crude parroting of a suspiciously similar DLC editorial published about a month before entitled "The Return of Liberal Fundamentalism." Both columns described Lamont's Internet supporters as "fundamentalist" liberals bent on a "purge" of poor nice old Joe Lieberman, who represents heterodoxy, centrism and bipartisanship. Brooks used the word "purge" twice; the author of the DLC column, Ed Kilgore, used it eight times.
Let's be clear about what we're dealing with here. These people are professional communicators. They don't repeatedly use words like "purge" and "fundamentalist" -- terms obviously associated with communism and Islamic terrorism -- by accident. They know exactly what they're doing. It's an authoritarian tactic and it should piss you off. It pissed me off. When I called the DLC about the editorial, Kilgore was not available, but they put Will Marshall on the line.
Marshall is the president of the DLC's Progressive Policy Institute and owns the distinction of being the first public figure to use the term "body count" in a positive sense with regard to the Iraq war ("Coalition forces still face daily attacks but the body count tilts massively in their favor"). He wasted no time in giving me the party line: "What we're seeing is an ideological purge," he said cheerily. "It's national effort by the left to get rid of somebody they've decided to demonize . . . we have concerns about narrow dogmatism. . ."
We went back and forth for a while. I noted that his conception of "narrow dogmatists" included the readers of Daily Kos, a website with something like 440,000 visitors a day; I also noted that recent Gallup polls showed that fully 91 percent of Democrats supported a withdrawal of some kind from Iraq.
"So these hundreds of thousands of Democrats who are against the war are narrow dogmatists," I said, "and. . . how many people are there in your office? Ten? Twenty? Thirty?"
"Well, it'd probably be in the thirty zone," sighed Marshall.
I asked Marshall if there was a publicly available list of donors to the DLC.
"Uh, I don't know," he said. "I'd have to refer you to the press office for that. They can help you there . . ." (Note: a DLC spokeswoman would later tell me the DLC has a policy of "no public disclosure," although she did say the group is funded in half by corporate donations, in half by individuals).
"So let me get this straight," I said. "We have thirty corporate-funded spokesmen telling hundreds of thousands of actual voters that they're narrow dogmatists?"
He paused and sighed, clearly exasperated. "Look," he said. "Everybody in politics draws money from the same basic sources. It's the same pool of companies and wealthy individuals . . ."
"Okay," I said. "So basically in this dispute over Lieberman, we have people on one side, and companies on the other? Would it be correct to say that?" I asked.
"Well, I guess if you live in a cartoon world you could say that," he said.
The DLC are the lowest kind of scum; we're talking about people who are paid by the likes of Eli Lilly and Union Carbide to go on television and call suburban moms and college kids who happen to be against the war commies and jihadists. On the ignominious-sellout scale, that's lower than doing PR for a utility that turns your grandmother's heat off at Christmas. And that's pretty bad -- but with enough money and enough of the right kind of publicity their side still might win in the Lamont/Lieberman primary on August 8th.
Which tells you just about everything you need to know about the modern Democratic Party. Why is anyone surprised that the Republicans never lose?